Give Right the right of free speech

Posted: August 20, 2009 by Jonathan Boyko in Israel, Own Articles, Politics, Press and Media

IDF soldiers evacuating Jewish settlers in Hebron On April 5, 1988, an article was published, that proclaimed the agenda of some of the most radical Left-wing Israeli activists. Among other things, the article said: "Only one who is willing to attack Ofra with tanks, will be able to stem the tide of fascism threatening to drown Israeli democracy". Over a decade later, same person wrote: "There is no doubt regarding the legitimacy of the armed resistance in the territories themselves. If the Palestinians had a bit of sense, they would concentrate their struggle against the settlements. […] They would similarly refrain from placing explosive charges on the western side of the Green Line."

Then, an amazing thing happened. Well, the amazing thing, actually, is that almost nothing happened. Yes, some Right-wing activists and even few media columnists noted that Professor Zeev Sternal went over the line, but one thing was missing – massive, media-driven outrage at words calling for murder of Israeli citizens (albeit, in a disputed territory), as well as forceful destruction of their homes. Everything was normal. This is not the kind of speech modern Israeli press considers incitement.

A few years passed and another – not less amazing – thing happened. Former Army Chief, Moshe Ya’alon, called for the re-establishment of ravaged settlements and labeled radical Left-wing peace activist group Peace Now a "virus".

All hell broke loose and righteous outrage ensued. Yariv Oppenheimer, Peace Now’s Secretary General said former IDF Chief of Staff was "demolishing democracy". Kadima sent out a press release stating something to the effect of: "Ah-ha, see? We told you they were extremists!" Sima Kadmon, a journalist and a columnist, diagnosed Ya’alon as being mentally challenged, addressing him by his nickname "Bogi".

One cannot help but wonder why calling for armed assault on men, women, and children would be considered peace activism, while insulting a radical organization is "demolishing democracy". Views on Peace Now’s activism certainly vary, and calling them names is likely to be counter-productive; however, shouldn’t we all take a deep breath, look at this situation clearly and set this discussion straight? We consider ourselves a civilized society – shouldn’t we act like one?

It would be nice for some columnists to be less condescending. It is "Moshe Ya’alon" for you, Madam Kadmon, unless you are his close friend or relative (and it is not "Bibi" either). It would be great if Kadima would drop the spin and stop characterizing Likud as extremist, based on declarations by a small minority within it. It would be fabulous if Israeli peace activists would attempt to understand feelings of people, for benefit of whom Peace Now did not protest on Kings of Israel square, while they were slaughtered by Hamas and Fatah mercenaries – instead of constantly repeating mantras, including terms such as "violent language" and "delegitimizing the peace camp". After all, shouldn’t peace include reconciliation within us?

If pundits, columnists, activists, and talking heads wish to criticize Right-wing activists and political figures for their extremist stance – it’s okay. They should remember, though, that by failing to criticize radicalism on both sides, they contribute to democratic regime’s disintegration. After all, if you call your opponent "stupid", you are not better than he is.

  1. Oh, no. This is the picture of IDF troops evacuating settlers in the West Bank. If you move your mouse pointer over the photo for a few seconds, a tooltip will pop up with the explanation.

  2. tekhelet says:

    That photo caught my attention. Are the women in the photo from the group Peace Now?

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